Sign up for lunch in village homes, bullock-cart rides, sugarcane treats and more at these harvest-friendly destinations
Last year, over 40,000 people participated in the Pongal celebrations hosted by Isha Foundation in Coimbatore. Members from around 20 villages took part—performing folk dances, cooking pongal and organising kolam competitions. The urge to connect with locals is seen in other places, too. For instance, in Ludhiana, the 22nd Lohri Mela was attended by both villagers and city folk. We look at other rustic experiences for the long weekend where the harvest takes centrestage.
Velliangiri Foothills, Coimbatore, January 16
What better place to spend the Pongal weekend than in the foothills of the Velliangiri Mountains, where Isha Foundation is hosting a massive celebration with the help of in-house residents and local villagers. With an expected attendance of over 500 people—including people from surrounding areas like Madurai and Tirunelveli—the event will start with a traditional meal served in the morning, followed by games and kolam competitions. Next, catch the main puja with the cows, after which pongal will be cooked in 25 pots, amidst cheers of ‘pongal o pongal’. The evening is reserved for folk dances, traditional songs and Tamil skits by the students of Isha Samskriti and Isha Home School. A trip to Velliangiri will take just over an hour from Coimbatore, and along the way you can stop by Doddabetta peak and Pykara lake. You can also head to Yelagiri where ISL Farm and Resorts has tied up with villagers to conduct a three-day Pongal programme. A two-night stay starts from Rs. 10,000. Those who wish to experience a bullock cart ride can stay at Hoysala Village Resorts in Belur, Karnataka, and enjoy a 45-minute ride to nearby villages like Handinkere (Rs. 500 per head). Details: ishafoundation.org; islresorts.in; hoysalavillageresorts.com
Pochampally village, Telangana, January 15
The village, which is an important weaving centre in Andhra Pradesh, is popular for its ikat saris. You can observe traditional rangolis outside homes and shops, and children indulging in flying kites. This is also a great time to attend the International Kite Flying festival in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, and the NAMO Patang Mahotsav in Ranchi. Scores of children and adults have already bought their kites from local craftsmen like Talib, who has been making them for the past four decades at Karballa Chowk. Elsewhere, cockfights in Jamshedpur beckon. Those heading to Pochampally can spend the night in Hyderabad (50 km from the place) in homestays like Eden Homestay (9160704672). There is also a popular homestay for animals called Petcetera, in case you bring your four-legged friend along. Details: 8686140000
Chitrakoot and Bastar, Chhattisgarh , January 24
Chhattisgarh has its fair share of tribes (think Gond, Haiba and Pando). You can lose yourself in their folk music during the Cher Chera Festival that celebrates the harvest. People also exchange produce like rice, which they then cook and eat. We suggest you head to the villages in districts like Chitrakoot and Bastar. Besides paddy fields on either side of the roads, you can also find interesting places to spend a night, like the grand Kanker Palace Heritage with its colonial style architecture. From Rs. 4,600 per night. Details: kankerpalace.com
Panbari Village, Assam, January 16
Try some community fishing at Goraimari Lake in Assam’s Panbari village (50 km from Guwahati) on the occasion of Magh Bihu (also known as Bhogali Bihu). Dedicated to Agni (god of fire), the celebrations last for a week—starting with young men erecting makeshift huts, or mejis, inside which community feasts, called bhoj—with dishes like rice cakes and coconut sweets—are served. At the end of the celebrations, the huts are burnt and the ashes spread on farms to improve fertility. To participate, head to the Indraprastha Community Development Organisation in Jorhat, where, besides a grand feast, there will also be traditional games like tekeli bhonga (pot breaking), plays by children and bull fights. Book a flight to Guwahati at around `11,000 on makemytrip.com, and spend a night at Prabhakar Homestay (from Rs. 3,800). Details: prabhakarhomestay.com
EcoLogin: This Chennai-based rural trip organiser has scheduled four trips this month and the next. “We will be taking tourists to visit weavers in Theni and learn how the latter go about their trade. Guests can choose a design and the weavers will make customised apparel for them,” says founder Sridhar Lakshmanan. Following this, they will visit farmers who own bulls, to get to know more about the history and tradition of jallikatu. Commenting on the ban, he asserts, “This age-old tradition has been instrumental in preserving the native bull breeds. Else, they will all end up in the slaughterhouse, and we will continue importing semen to produce calves. One needs to visit the farmers themselves to understand the importance of such traditions.” There are also trips to Nagapattinam and Thiruvarur scheduled, where discussions on the play Ponniyin Selvan and yesteryear Carnatic songs will be conducted. Packages start from Rs. 6,000 per head, for two days. Details: ecologin.org
Join the Pongal festivities with song and dance. Plus, a Mediterranean culinary journey and a fun paper workshop
Harvest for all
Let folk dances like myillattam, poikai,
kudhirai and karagam, pull you into the Pongal
festivities organised at DakshinaChitra. These performances will be brought to you by Chennai-based Thanjai G Raja and troupe. If
you visit on the festival day, you can attend the pooja and savour the pongal dish too. Till January 17. 10.30 am onwards.
Movie and grills
Tonight, Joy Community Guesthouse at Auroville is the place to be. Pop by with an appetite at 6.30 pm and let the special grills menu comprising prawns, fish and vegetables fill you up. Then, proceed to watch Italian cult comedy Bianco, Rosso e Verdone (with English subtitles) organised in the open air garden at 7.30 pm. A meal for two will be Rs. 800 approximately. Reservation required.
Details: 0413 2622584
Treat yourself to some Mediterranean specials at Blueline, The Promenade. Begin by trying their dolma (beef) soup and end with baklava or basbousa (sweet cake). The main course includes paella with shrimps and Moroccan grilled fish among other dishes. Till January 30, only for dinner. Meal for two at Rs. 2000 approximately.
Details: 0413 2227750
Learn to make paper from scratch at the two-day workshop at Auroville Retreat. Day one will be about the plants that paper is made out of and how they are washed and beaten into pulp. Use different fibres and colours, under supervision, to make your paper unique and take it home the next day. Materials will be provided. On January 22 and 23, at Rs. 6000, including refreshments.
Details: 0413 2622122
Find out about professions in India you never knew existed like a professional mourner, a pandit who records genealogy of families – with Kolkata based author Nidhi Dugal Kundalia’s first book Lost Generations. She will discuss the book at Palais De Mahe on January 20, at 6 pm. Organised by People for Pondicherry’s Heritage.
Strech it out
Exercise your nervous system by participating in Somatic Explorations at Verite, Auroville on January 20. Originally from London, Maggie Sisson, a certified somatic movement educator, will take you through movements which release tension, increase mobility, balance and wellness. Contributions will be requested from guests and volunteers at the end.
Details: 0413 2622045
LB2 lounge’s Upendra Tripathi unviels his new rooftop bar
THE past year has been busy for Upendra Tripathi. The owner of LB2 Lounge on La Bourdonnais street, is all set to launch the project he has been working on since March 2015. The LB2 Rooftop is his new 800 square feet bar that was introduced to friends last Saturday, and where Pondicherry-based Sleepwalker played to a crowd of about 75. “For me the rooftop bar is an extension of the lounge,” says the 45-year-old Tripathi. The two entities happen share the menu and kitchen.
Of his new venture, the Jaipur-born owner says, “Vincent Roy from France did most of the furniture while the bar stools are done by Pondicherry-based furniture brand Aquamarine. The flooring is concrete so is the bar counter, which is also waxed.” Tending the bar is E Rajesh who will whip up cocktails and mocktails like the long island iced tea, cosmopolitan, and mojitos apart from his own creations like Pinkcolition made of vodka, cointreau, cranberry juice and grenadine syrup. Chef Sam V Mathew from Kerala prepares specials like coq au vin, porchetta and Kerala fish curry.
The house and lounge music is hand-picked by Tripathi, who says, “Just eat good food, have good drinks and when the mood sets in, start dancing.” He has plans to bring international DJs on Saturdays, and also intoduce ladies night and karaoke sessions soon. The bar will launch officially by the end of the month.
Meal for two, including cocktails, priced between Rs. 800 and Rs. 1,500. Details: 09789665670 — Seema Rajpal
Sita Cultural Center gears up to celebrate their fourth anniversary with fun activities like cookie and bicycle bell decoration
If Three’s a charm, what would four be? Find out at the anniversary party of Sita Cultural Center. Creating a sense of community, this party starts with a potluck lunch. “Drinks and desserts will be organised by us, while the guests need to get their own dish,” says Fleur Soumer, founder of the cultural center. You can also engage in activities from decorating your own cookie — organised by Saloua from Eat My Cake to customising bicycle bells with paints, among other options. Game time
Party plans have been in motion since three months now. While there is an opportunity to train under professional enamel jeweller Daphine at the enamel jewellery workshop for `500, “there is no competition and the activities are just fun and creative,” says Soumer. Expect board games like carom, chess, snakes and ladders. We ask her for pointers on the last and the most awaited activity, ‘realisation of fresco’ where participants will let their imagination run wild to decorate the painting room of the centre. “Just think about Sita and masala — the mix of culture — and let your imagination flow!” she cheerfully concludes.
Originally from France, Soumer had started off by managing a guest house in Pondicherry in 2010, and found that visitors often had no clue about how to explore the quaint city. She along with Martine Mallard, the co-founder who settled in Kochi before Pondicherry more than 15 years ago, simply tried to fill this void by asking themselves “What’s missing in here?” “The cuisine experience was missing, promotion of Indian arts was missing, good dance classes were missing and so on,” shares Soumer, who specialises in oriental therapies. “From the local side as well, people were creating demands for new activities especially for their kids,” points out the founder, who shares that it was to promote culture and arts in Pondicherry that they started Sita (which stands for South Indian Traditional Arts). The centre has since successfully initiated regular activities like French cooking classes and pottery making workshops among others.
Anniversary party begins at 12 pm on January 23. Details: 0413 4200718
Besharam (Comedy), Zee Cinema HD, 5.42 pm
Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Pallavi Sharda, Javed Jaffrey
Babli (Kapoor) is a small-time thief who steals a car and sells it to Bheem Singh Chandel (Jaffrey). Realising that it belongs to Tara (Sharda), who he has a soft corner for, Babli asks her to come to Chandigarh and help him get it back from Chandel. When Tara realises that Babli had stolen the car, he tries to win her over by admitting that he steals only to support children at an orphanage. They manage to steal the car back from Chandel, but on the way, they find Chandel’s cash stash, which they decide to give
to the orphanage. Meanwhile, the Chautalas (Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Kapoor), both police officers, are hot on their trail. This is the first time Kapoor acted
with his parents in a movie.
Prometheus (Sci-Fi), Star Movies, 9 pm
Cast: Charlize Theron, Michael Fassbender,
Set in the future, in 2093, a group of explorers and archaeologists head to an alien universe, following a map discovered by Elizabeth Shaw (Rapace) and Charlie Halloway, which suggests that the forerunners of the current human race came from a distant moon called the LV-223. Under the captaincy of Meredith Vickers (Theron), the crew arrives there aboard the Prometheus and come face-to-face with a giant monolithic statue of a humanoid head and cylinders containing a blood that is different from the human type. They soon realise they are not alone. The opening sequence of the movie was shot in Iceland and took two weeks to complete.
Up In The Air (Comedy), HBO Hits, 3.56 pm
Cast: George Clooney, Anna Kendrick,
Ryan Bingham (Clooney) fires people for a living. He works for a corporate downsizing firm that allows him to travel around the world, visit other companies, and do the tough job of telling employees that they have been fired. But for Bingham, his life is paradise as he is able to do the very thing that he loves, fly. Moreover, he is also a motivational speaker and a happy bachelor. Things change when his company adopts Natalie Keener’s (Kendrick) proposal of firing people through video conferencing. Bingham finds his comfort space breached. The movie received six Academy Award and six Golden Globe Award nominations.
Cocktail (Comedy/Drama), B4U Movies, 9 pm
Cast: Saif Ali Khan, Deepika Padukone, Diana Penty
Meera (Penty), a newly-married girl, leaves for London to live with her husband, Kunal (Randeep Hooda). But she soon learns that her husband only married her for the money. At the London airport, she bumps into playboy Gautam (Khan) who immediately asks her out. But she refuses him. Now stranded in the city without a friend, she meets Veronica (Padukone) who asks her to move in. They meet Gautam again at a nightclub, and he ends up in a relationship with Veronica and moves in with them, much to Meera’s displeasure. However, she slowly begins to warm towards him. But will their friendship weather the complications of love? Gautam’s role was initially offered to Imran Khan.
Gangster (Romance/Drama), Star Gold HD, 3.50 pm
Cast: Kangana Ranaut, Emraan Hashmi, Shiney Ahuja
Daya Shankar (Ahuja), is a criminal who is on the run with a young bar dancer, Simran (Ranaut). Both of them settle down after adopting a boy, Bittu (Hitanshu Lodhia). But after Bittu gets killed, they begin living apart, as Shankar seeks jobs overseas and Simran becomes an alcoholic. She then moves to Seoul, where she meets Akash (Hashmi) and falls in love. Though Shankar is furious when he hears of their relationship, he promises to lead an honest life for Simran’s sake. But will Simran leave Akash for Shankar? Daya’s role was initially offered to Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Akhtar, who turned it down.
Blue Ruin (Thriller), Star Movies, 9 pm
Cast: Macon Blair, Devin Ratray
Dwight Evans (Blair) is a
lonely vagabond living out of his car. That is, until he learns that the man who killed his parents, Wade Cleland, is going to be released from prison. Evans returns to Virginia, his
hometown, and kills Cleland in
an act of revenge. He then visits his sister Sam (Amy Hargreaves) who is happy to learn about Wade’s death. Assuming that the Cleland family will now come after them, Evans instructs his sister make a run for it, while he stays to ambush the attackers. But will the drama stop at that? The movie was crowdfunded, and managed to garner critical reception. It premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2013.
Tamanchey (Romance/Comedy), Zee Cinema HD, 8 pm
Cast: Nikhil Dwivedi, Richa Chadda
Munna (Dwivedi), a small-time kidnapper from Uttar Pradesh, meets Bindiya Thakur aka Babu (Chhadda), a street-smart drug peddler from Delhi, while in police custody. Later, both escape during a fateful accident. On the run, Munna is attracted to Babu’s boldness and falls for her, but she doesn’t reciprocate his feelings. Though they get intimate on a train journey, Babu leaves Munna. He goes to Delhi to search for her, but Babu’s association with a deadly criminal spells doom for their relationship. The music is by Krsna Solo, who earlier composed for Tanu Weds Manu.
Partner (Comedy), Movies OK, 7.55 pm
Cast: Salman Khan, Katrina Kaif, Govinda, Lara Dutta
Prem (Khan), the only brother to six sisters, helps men woo women and becomes popular as the ‘Love Guru’. Among the men he helps is Bhaskar Diwakar Chaudhry (Govinda), who is in love with his boss, Priya Jaisingh (Kaif). Meanwhile, Prem meets a photojournalist who is also a widowed single mother, Naina (Dutta). In an altercation with some gangsters, Prem saves her life and falls in love with her. But an unexpected scandal threatens to ruin everything. The film had the second biggest domestic opening in 2007 and grossed `1.38 billion in India alone.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Action/Drama),
Zee Studio HD, 1.20 pm
Cast: Zhang Ziyi, Michelle Yeoh, Chow Yun-Fat
Set in the 17th century, Li Mu Bai (Yun-Fat), a great warrior, decides to gift his powerful sword named Green Destiny to an old friend in Beijing. But the sword is stolen by a masked thief. Li Mu Bai is now on a quest to retrieve it and, at the same time, he wants to avenge the death of his master, who was killed by Jade Fox (Cheng Pei-pei), a student. He is accompanied by Shu Lien (Yeoh), the love of his life. Will the duo be able to find the lost sword? The movie won the Best Foreign Language Film award at the 73rd Academy Awards.
The Three Musketeers (Action), Movies Now, 6.50 pm
Cast: Mathew Macfadyen, Logan Lerman, Ray Stevenson
In Venice, the Three Musketeers, Athos (Macfadyen), Porthos (Stevenson) and Aramis (Luke Evans) are disbanded by Cardinal Richelieu (Christoph Waltz) after they fail to steal Leonardo Da Vinci’s airship blueprints. Not realising this, d’Artagnan (Lerman) challenges them to a duel. When the guard accosts them for illegal dueling, they team up. And soon get a new mission: protect King Louis and his wife from Count Richelieu. Lerman also plays the character, Percy Jackson, a skilled swordsman in the Percy Jackson movies.
Grandfathered, Star World Premiere HD, Friday, 9.30 pm
The series follows Jimmy Martino, a restaurant owner, who is determined to lead the life of a partying bachelor after his divorce. But then he happens to meet his son, who he never knew existed, and learns that he is not only a father but also a grandfather. In tonight’s episode, Martino will reunite with his college friends, and bestie Ronnie, who will make fun of his ‘family man’ image.
Predation!, Animal Planet, Friday, 7 pm
Tonight’s episode, named Praying Mantis: An Alien’s World, will explore the evolution, life cycle and behaviour of the insect. This macro documentary will also offer a glimpse of the most formidable and rarest representatives of the mantis family. There are some 2,200 species of this bizarre insect family across the globe.
Cars That Rock With Brian Johnson, Discovery Turbo, Saturday, 6 pm
In the series, Brian Johnson, the frontman of Australian band AC/DC, explores the history of his favourite cars. He will tell you what makes Jaguar so special and meet Norman Dewis, who was engaged in the development of the Jaguar brand between 1952 and 1985. Later, he will also
try his hand at drifting in a Jaguar Project 7 model.
Marion’s Thailand, TLC India, Friday, 6.30 pm
In tonight’s episode, titled Farewell, Thailand’s celebrated chef Chumpol will whip up one of Thailand’s national dishes, Nahm Prik Kapi (a dipping sauce). Australian chef and author, Marion Grasby, who hosts the show, will cook a whole fish by steaming it in banana leaves on a charcoal BBQ. A prawn and banana blossom salad is also part of the menu.
House MD, FX and FX HD, Friday, 10 pm
In this episode, a college student named Brandon is rushed to Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital after he collapses. Watch Dr Gregory House and his team figure out the cause of the collapse in this re-run, even as Brandon’s condition continues to deteriorate and his symptoms multiply.
Chicago Fire, Colors Infinity, Tuesday, 10 pm
The show chronicles the everyday struggles of firefighters and paramedics working at the Chicago Fire Department (CFD). This week, tension between CFD’s Lieutenant Matthew Casey and detective Hank Voight of the Chicago Police Department will escalate. The former had tried to report the latter’s son for driving under the influence of alcohol.
Hard toiling calls for a real break, and being in Thailand you cannot but take at least a two-day trip out to one of their famed coastal towns. Krabi, labelled as an upcoming Phuket, is a great bet, being less crowded but offering plenty of leisure plans. If you have your children along, Holiday Inn, located at Ao Nang Beach is the place to head to, where food and stay is free for them. A tranquil resort with beautifully landscaped gardens and a large pool, you’ll find adults relaxing at the pool bar while watching the little ’uns play on the water slides. For more adventurous activities, step out on to the beach just across the road from Holiday Inn, and you can take a long-tail boat taxi out on various trips, depending on your time, either to swim in the beautiful emerald waters of Phra Nang beach or Rai Lay beach, accessible only by boat, or for longer day cruises (provided by several companies, notable among them, Andaman Day Cruise Company) to a choice of places, including Phi Phi Islands and Phuket. What’s more, you get to experience great Thai hospitality and their delicious cuisine as lunch is served on board.
Kon-Tiki Krabi Diving & Snorkelling Center: Professionalsnorkelling guides take you and the family to discover colourful corals and marine life, and if you’re game, you can take a quick course of scuba diving, get your gear on and see the Andaman Sea from the depths! They offer diving tours everyday to Phi Phi Islands, Shark Point Sanctuary, Koh Haa Yai and Hin Deang/Hin Muang. Those interested can buy diving and snorkeling equipment at their store.
Real Rocks Railay: Great for first-time climbers, you can book an intro course on rock climbing, and the staff take you on long tail boats to Railay beach’s cliffs to climb. The half-day course costs 1,000 THB and includes hotel transfers and water bottles. Guided by friendly instructors, you can go with a pace you are comfortable with, and although it’s tougher than it looks, the view from the top makes it all worth it.
On your next official trip to Bangkok, make time for mixed martial arts, bobble football and other fun classes between meetings
Thailand attracts both the adventurer and the business traveller. While the former has a blast, the latter is usually content with the hotel’s free WiFi and maybe a quick massage. But we say, venture out. Besides the great architecture and the vibrant local culture and cuisine, there is a lot to experience in this warm country with its ever-smiling and hospitable people. While in the city that doesn’t sleep, the Hotel Crowne Plaza is a good place to check in. Located in the business district, it has everything you’d expect from a luxury business hotel—from free WiFi to a 24-hour restaurant/coffee shop that offers a great breakfast spread (including continental, Thai and Chinese cuisines, between 6.30 am and 10.30 am). Another highlight: the Sala Daeng station is barely 300 metres away, so you can easily get around on the BTS Skytrain (and beat the notorious road traffic).And since Bangkok has no dearth of places offering experiences to chill and learn something while at it, here’s our pick of things to do while in between meetings. Rooms from Rs. 7,600 onwards. Details: crowneplaza-bangkok.com
Also located in the Sukumvit area, this is a bright, airy space where guests are welcome to take short courses—even as brief as two days. If you have a few days more, take what’s called a backpacker pass, with an unlimited pass for a week. The gracious hosts will guide you in an experience that involves learning and, if you’re an avid yogi yourself, teaching, too. Details: +66 26620172
Bangkok Fitness Lab
Take a class at the most popular fitness and mixed martial arts centres in the city. You can walk in and learn the basics or practise a bout of boxing, Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai, wrestling or Olympic lifting. Located at Sukhumvit, it’s a short ride away from Sala Daeng. A one-day unlimited pass costs 1,000 baht (Rs. 1,831). Details: firstname.lastname@example.org
Museum of Floral Culture
Looking to learn some tips on Thai floral culture in a calm atmosphere? The Museum of Floral Culture, a private teak house and garden, has a lovely display of Thai floral art. They’ll give you a guided tour and show you how it’s done. At the end of the tour, you will be served fragrant tea and Thai sweets. Get off at Sapham Thaksin Skytrain station, and take a boat from the pier to Dusit, from where it’s a short taxi ride or a 20-minute walk. Two-hour workshop at Rs. 1,700 baht (Rs. 3,114). Details: floralmuseum.com
If you love Thai food, why not learn a few recipes? Chef Leez’s cooking classes are by far the most sought after. From choosing ingredients to showing you what works with what, the master chef packs a lot into four hours. You can make a reservation now for courses till February 21. At Phranakorn. Group class at 2,200 baht per person (Rs. 4,028). Details: chefleez.com
— Annie Thomas (The writer was there by invitation)